Saturday, December 10, 2011

We Survived

Last week David went to Frankfurt for training. I didn't blog about it at the time because according to Donna's sacred rules of FS blogging rule #2 it is better to blog about events afterward rather than announcing to the world in general that David will be flying internationally on Friday on Ethiopian Air and that the boys and I will be home alone all week. So I held my peace and mentally wrote smart-a**, tongue in cheek, dark humor type posts dealing with driving in Malawi and my reaction to Dave texting me pictures of his dinner at Koh Samui, my favorite Thai restaurant. Hmmmph! They would have been funny posts, in a very sarcastic way, but then yesterday happened. We survived is probably the best I can say and I am thankful to be able to say that. So what happened? Well pull up a chair, have a sit, and let me tell you. This is going to take a while so choose a comfortable chair.

Sometime before 5 in the morning on Friday I was awoken for the second day in a row to the sound of a smoke alarm complaining of a low battery. You know the sound a slow steady and yet oh so loud BEEP.......BEEP.......BEEP......BEEP.....David's reaction to this is usually to pull the offending alarm, remove it's battery thereby shutting it up, and go back to sleep. Sadly I am not as tall as Dave so even with the tallest stepladder in the house I can't reach the alarm. I took a deep breath and acknowledged that sleep was over and I might as well get up. I was more than a bit pissed because maintenance had been out the day before to look at the alarms and replace batteries after the beeping woke me up at 4:15 on Thursday. Turning on the light I was relieved to see the alarm was a little later today and it was almost 4:45 so that wasn't too bad. I was planning to make popovers for the kids last day of school before the holidays and needed to get up early anyway.

Popovers cooking, drinking a hot cup coffee in the quiet peace before the kids awoke I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had stayed up late making cupcakes for Grayson's party, slicing mounds of vegetables and making homemade ranch dip for Colin and Alonzo's parties. I had left the kitchen a mess the night before but that wasn't going to be a problem. I had plenty of time to clean the kitchen, take a shower, make cookies for the Christmas party at the ambassador's in the afternoon, and if all went well I would even have time to give myself a pedicure before Dave's plane landed at 12:30 so that my toes would be pretty at the party. Things did not go well.

It started off well enough. The popovers popped beautifully and the kids were happy to have their favorite breakfast treat on a school day. I managed to get everyone dressed and out the door with backpacks, water bottles, party treats, and 100 kwacha each to pay for being out of uniform. Yes the school makes you pay if you were civilian clothes on special party days, seriously.

I glanced at my watch it was now about 5 minutes before the bus should arrive. We were slightly ahead of schedule. I decided I had just enough time to call in to complain about the beeping. Yes the alarm was still beeping. BEEP....BEEP.....BEEP....after a bit you just tune it out, or go crazy, whichever. I told the kids to wait by the gate and I would be right out. I called the poor soul that mans the phones after hours for the umpteenth time in a week. I could almost hear him thinking "You again!" Dave goes out of town and everything breaks, usually after hours. While I was on the phone I hear a blood curdling shriek. Recognizing Alonzo's voice I ignored him because this child will scream like a banshee and swear he is bleeding to death from a paper cut so I figured if he was screaming he was still well enough to breathe and breathing is a good thing. Right?

By the time I hang up he has stumbled in the house and is laying on the floor sobbing. I look him over, don't see any blood, and he did make it into the house on his own power so he couldn't be hurt too badly. Right? Without a whole lot of sympathy I ask what's wrong and he sobs louder. If there are words in the sobbing I can't tell it. His brother appears to tell me he fell out of a tree. Big deep breath, I can feel my head trying to explode.

"Where are you hurt?" I manage to asks with out screaming "Why the BEEP were you up a tree when I said to wait by the gate?" although I promise you I thought it, loudly. He sobs something that might have been a word.

The bother chimes in "I think he broke his arm." Great, just dandy.

I manage to get him to stand up and stop sobbing quite so loudly. I ask if he wants to stay home and go to med to which he responds between gasping sobs "I d-d-don't want to m-m-miss the p-p-party." and to which I thought, but didn't say, "Then you should a stayed out of the BEEPing tree."

I tell him if he wants to go to the party he has to stop crying and go get on the bus which apparently arrived as he fell out of the tree and is now honking a bit impatiently. Can't really blame the driver there. I get the boy loaded on the bus and head back in for more coffee, I really need more coffee. That wasn't going to happen. About the time I finish stirring in the cream the doorbell rings. SIGH! I set the cup down without taking a sip and go see what's up. It's the guard telling me the bus is back. Of course it is. Alonzo is crying again and now no longer cares about the party. He wants to go to med. Great that means I will have to drive. I don't drive here, ever. The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car, the cars are on the wrong side of the road. Toss in my total lack of a sense of direction, all the pedestrians, gas lines, minibuses, and non-working traffic lights and we have a problem Houston.

I call med to let them know what is up and then manage to get to the embassy with killing myself, the car, or any pedestrians. Whew. We meet with the folks at med who send us off to Partners in Hope for x-rays. Having never heard of this place nor having any idea where it is I manage to convince them it is important, that in the interest of not wrecking the car and creating more work for med, that I have someone from motor pool drive us. Good call! Motor pool drops us off. The x-rays are taken, payed for (with money I had to borrow from med), and processed. Film in hand I call motor pool to send a car to retrieve us and we head back to med. Med looks at the film and confirms the kid is broken. They are surprised he wasn't casted there and ask what the doctor said.

"Ummm....I didn't see a doctor, just the technician who took the x-ray. When he was done he gave me the film and said to go back so I did." Apparently I was supposed to see a doctor and misunderstood what I was supposed to do when he said "Go back" I was supposed to go back to the front desk or possibly go back to sitting in the chair in the waiting room, but I was not supposed go back to the embassy. CRAP!

Med quickly reassures it will be OK and then they spend a few minutes formulating a new plan. They also reassure me that they have contacted the management officer (MO) and the community liaison officer (CLO) who have made arrangements for my kids to go home with the CLO's kids so they will be fine after school. Not to worry.

The new plan is for me to go to ABC Clinic for casting. We call for another car from motor pool and are promptly told there are no drivers available. By this time I am thinking if I can just hang in there until 12:30 Dave will be home and I can have a nervous breakdown while he deals with all of this. I have never missed the ER at Methodist Children's Hospital so much in my life. One stop shopping for all you emergency needs.

After a quick call to the MO he manages to produce a driver and car from somewhere. I didn't ask where, but I almost wept in gratitude, and we are off. I meet with a lovely British doctor who reviews the films and talks to me and Alonzo about how we should cast this. Then we meet with the guy who actually does the casting. He has a different plan called a backslab. He and the doctor disappear for a bit and eventually reappear to tell me he will be getting a full cast to above the elbow. Ok that's great. At this point I just want it to be done so we can go home. The doctor leaves to see another patient and the guy doing the casting does a backslab cast anyway. This is just a piece of plaster that runs along the back of the arm like a splint and is held on by an ace bandage, it is not a full cast.

The doctor returns, takes in the situation, and decides that maybe this is fine. Alonzo needs to return on Wednesday anyway when the orthopedic doctor comes his visit to make sure all is well.

We are finally on our way back to way back to the embassy when I get a text from Dave. YAY! He's back! I tell him to meet me at the embassy. He tells me he is in Lubumbashi. WHERE??? He is supposed to be here NOW! How can I have a nervous breakdown if he isn't here to take over? Besides we have to be at a party at the ambassador's residence in like three hours, I am still at Med with a broken kid, I still need to make cookies, I've only had one cup of coffee today, I never did have breakfast, and I getting pretty light headed

Med finally releases us after feeding us both yummy granola bars from a personal stash. I manage to get lost between the embassy and the CLO's house which wouldn't be so bad, but it's not that far from the embassy, and she lives really close to my house. And still I managed to get lost. The kid in the backseat with the broken arm is the one who has to give me directions to get me unlost. When I said I had no sense of direction I wasn't kidding.

I walk in the house and my friend looks at me and ask if we have eaten. I say no and she starts cooking quesadillas even though she is in the middle of coordinating the Christmas party at the ambassador's residence that will take place in just over two hours. We all need friends like that! I inhale my quesadilla and so does Alonzo, I don't know that last time food tasted that good. I collect my children and manage to make it home with our getting lost again.

Fast forward two hours I have managed to unearth some snickerdoodles from the freezer, those will have to do for our cookie contribution. The kids are cleaned up to a level that is mostly presentable, and I am dressed and almost ready to go. I get a text from Dave saying he has landed, in Lilongwe this time, and should make it home in time for the party. Things are looking better. Finally.

We have a nice time at the party. Alonzo enjoyed showing off his war wounds. We sing carols and take pictures with Santa Claus. When we arrived at the party Dave handed me glass of wine and told me to relax. I did. When he noticed I was out of wine he handed me a cup of hot mulled wine and managed to keep that cup full the remainder of the party. Do you remember what I have to eat today? One granola bar and one quesadilla. Drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea. Drinking on an empty stomach at a party at the ambassador's house is a really bad idea. I don't think I did or said anything too stupid, at least I hope not, I'm not exactly sure. If I did please don't tell me, I don't want to know. My head was really spinning when we left.

I thought the day was done with us. The kid was broken, my husband ended up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when I needed him at home, I had to drive, and yet we had still made it to the party, even if I was a little drunk. We had survived. HA!

The day wasn't over yet. I sat down to send my mom an e-mail and realized three things:
  1. The alarm was still beeping and I never called to cancel the maintenance guys who probably showed up only to find I wasn't home and they were wasting their time. David fixed that by yanking the alarm down and removing it's batteries. Silence, blessed silence.
  2. The internet was down, nothing unusual in that, and hopefully it would be up soon.
  3. The computer was dead. The nice, relatively new iMac with the 21inch screen, the computer the kids use for homework, the computer we use for Skype, that computer was deader than a doorknob.

What a perfect way to end a perfectly crappy day, but we survived.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oh Baby Baby, It's A Wild World

It's Saturday night. The weekend is only half over. So far this weekend has seen a pied crow with an apparently broken wing, the return (yet again) of Squirtle the Bell's Hingeback Tortoise, several lizards, a white tree frog with orange feet, two millipedes, a brownish tree frog with red feet, assorted bugs, a blue headed agama, and last but not least, the African pygmy hedgehog currently eating a cricket in my kitchen. Thankfully there have been no spiders or snakes, yet.

I am not sure why my kids spend so much time watching Animal Planet or NatGeo Wild. They are far more entertaining, and often more terrifying than anything I've yet seen on either channel. Currently the boys are watching Austin Stevens chase hyenas around Africa. I have no idea why, and it seems like a spectacularly bad idea to me, but the boys seem to be into it.

Colin wants to have an animal TV show when he an adult. Considering what my daily life looks like I am betting he could just make that happen. He has a plan. He will go to the Coast Guard academy getting his degree in biological-environmental sciences. This part of the plan may or may not be heavily influenced by Dad. Then after he serves his time as an officer he will return to college to get his masters in herpetology, then he figures he should be ready for his own television show.

Update on assorted animals: The pied crow did not have a broken wing. We think possibly one of the guards had thrown a rock at him, and he was stunned, but not really hurt. Dave was able to walk right up to the bird and pick him up. We took him to the wildlife center but when David opened the basket it simply flew away. David was pretty surprised. Most of the lizards, both frogs, and the millipedes were released unharmed. A couple of lizards did become snake food because snakes need to eat too. The hedgehog will be released before bedtime even if I have to do it myself. Squirtle has yet again taken up residence in the large konde, oh yay. Sarcasm intended. I am sure that tomorrow will bring more animals. At least my life is rarely boring.

I spoke too soon. While I was editing pictures for this post the cry went up "SNAKE!!" and now all the boys, including David, are outside with the guard looking for a snake, in the garden, in the dark, in Malawi. This seems like an even worse idea than chasing hyenas around Africa but there you have it, a future Animal Planet star in the making. I really hope they DON'T find it. Nope, my life is rarely boring.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving (Otherwise known as the obligatory "I am thankful for" post)

I wasn't feeling particularly thankful for much when I woke up this morning. In fact I was feeling down right grumpy. As I sat and drank my coffee I mulled over all the reasons I wasn't feeling quite in the mood for Thanksgiving.
  1. We have had no hot water since I returned from my trip to Kenya last week. The last hot shower I had was in Nairobi. On Friday. Five days of taking "camp baths" isn't making me too cheery. I probably don't smell great either. Deodorant and perfume only go so far. Late today the water heater was pronounced "fixed" (again) but I will believe it when I step into a piping hot shower (hopefully) later tonight.
  2. We don't have a turkey for Thanksgiving tomorrow. This is my first ever Thanksgiving without turkey. What is Thanksgiving without Turkey? They don't call it Turkey Day for nothing. But even I draw then line at $70+ for a turkey. For that price I want lobster with champagne and I don't want to cook it. Or do dishes either. We are having chicken instead. Chicken Day. Doesn't quite have the proper ring does it?
  3. My kids have school all week, including tomorrow. School on Thanksgiving. That's just wrong. They will be playing hooky. Sorry school, they are skipping you tomorrow.
  4. I am missing my family. Thanksgiving is the day we always get together as an extended family. Uncles and Aunts and Cousins. Fried turkey and baked turkey and spiral sliced ham. Dressing and giblet gravy. Side dishes and desserts by the dozen. Chaos and noise and laughter and long games of washers. All of it is only an ocean away.
  5. And my biggest reason I wasn't feeling it this morning is this is our first Thanksgiving without Dakota. It has been almost a year since he left home for bootcamp, but I still miss him everyday. Tomorrow perhaps most of all. It feels as if there is a hole in our family.
I was prepared to put on a happy face for the kids. I want them to only have good memories about the holidays and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday so I want it to be special to them too. I drew up the menu, and set to work doing the prep work. When you can't go buy chicken stock in a box or refrigerated pie dough cooking a proper Thanksgiving dinner can a take bit longer than it might otherwise. Also we are having guests tomorrow and I hate to be in the kitchen when there are guests in the house. I would be rather sit and visit. So today I did as much of the prep work as possible and while I worked I put on the radio station from back home and sang along to one country song after another.

Then something strange happened I began to realize how much I have to be thankful for. So here is the obligatory Thanksgiving Day "I am thankful for" list that bloggers all over America, or where ever Americans have landed worldwide, are busy publishing on blogs, FB, twitter, or whatever their social media of choice may be.
  1. First I am thankful for my Mom. Mom taught me to cook and to garden. Thank you Mom, because of you we will have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Tonight my kids ate their very first artichokes which we grew from seed in our very own garden. Even better two out of three kids liked them. Dave did too, I think.
  2. I am thankful for the internet without which we would be in big trouble because all my cookbooks disappeared 3 international moves back. (Please God let them be in storage, Amen.) Thanks to the internet I can find recipes for virtually anything, except gratineed potato gnocchi in sage cream and that's not on the menu for Thanksgiving anyway.
  3. I am doubly thankful for the internet as it lets me make great friends all one the world. I mentioned earlier that I was in Kenya last week. Well I was there for a very bloggy meet up with Naoma and Alexandra. I can't even tell you how thankful I am to have such wonderful women welcome me into their homes. What an amazing gift.
  4. I am thankful for my husband. I love him more than words can express. When I called him at 2, after he spent his entire lunch hour picking up "a few things" I still needed for tomorrow, to tell him I forgot to put sugar on the list and he would have to go back to the store on the way home he didn't even bat an eye. He just said "OK no problem." He not only brought home sugar he also brought Pringles. Salt and vinegar Pringles, just for me. Now that's love.
  5. I am thankful for my kids. They are loud. They are noisy. They fight all the blessed time. They usually stink. But they are mine and love them.
  6. I am thankful for friend near and far. You enrich my life in more ways than I count.
  7. I am thankful for my husband's iPad and specifically a little app called Tunein. With that app I can stream radio stations from around the world, but especially my favorite country music station from home which for some reason will not stream on my computer. That taste of home made me feel so much better today, although it did leave me with the lingering feeling I should call Dave to warn him of a pile up in 410 so he wouldn't get caught in traffic.
  8. I am thankful for laughter. Just a little while ago the boys came through the kitchen and complained about my choice of music. Why didn't I listen to something more interesting, something better, something not so old. They left with their various music players blaring The Beatles All You Need Is Love, The Beach Boys California Girls, and Glee's version of Raise Your Glass. Snort! Giggle Giggle.
Happy Thanksgiving, Where ever you are!

Wordless Wednesday - Kitengela Glass

Monday, November 21, 2011

Good Friends Who Make you Laugh Are The Best!

One of my best friends anywhere, on any continent, is Monica over at A Day in the Life. We were friends long before either of us had ever heard of a blog, never mind began authoring our respective blogs. We were pregnant together (there's a bonding experience for you) and raised our babies together before Dave and I decided to up and move our family all over the world. Our two boys are still best friends and spend every second together when we are home. Last summer I overheard the two boys plotting for Colin to live with them, or for M. to come live with us for high school. Maybe Monica and I can just send the two of them off to boarding school together.

One of the reasons I adore Monica is she gets my quirks, and has a few of her own. One of my quirks is the fear that someday something will creep up the drain pipe, into the toilet bowl, and bite me on the butt while I am happily doing my business. I know it seems irrational, but everyone has heard the urban legend of finding a snake in the toilet and I'm not convinced it's just a legend. In fact I cannot go to the toilet in the middle of the night without turning on the light and checking the bowl before I sit down. A habit that drives poor husband nuts since it is now combined with the fear that a black mamba is lurking just waiting to kill me. Hey! I live in Malawi, it's not that far fetched. Anyway I have to turn on the lights before I can set foot in the bathroom, which means that every time I go to the bathroom at 2 in the morning he gets a woken up by a blast of light as I scan the room for a wet mamba slithering out of the toilet bowl. It's good thing he loves me!

As it turns out Monica has the same quirk. The toilet thing, not the mamba, so far as I know she doesn't have major snake issues. Who knew toilets were so scary? If you want a good laugh go read her newest post "Why is there a machete in the crapper?" I laughed harder than I have in ages. Another thing I adore about Monica is she is one funny chick who can almost always make me laugh. No, I am not going to spill the beans, you will have to go read the post if you want the answer to her question. I am, however, going to add to her toilet issues just a bit.

Today I was cleaning the toilets and after I finished brushing out the bowl I flushed the toilet. Seems pretty standard, right? Clean, scrub, flush. Except this time when I flushed something long and black started coming out of one of the little holes at the top of the bowl, you know the little holes where the clean water comes from? Yes, I know that those holes are too flipping small for a mamba to come slithering out of, but when I saw something moving I screamed down the house. Dave and just arrived home from work and came running. This would have been a great except he took one look and started laughing. It wasn't a mamba. It wasn't even a snake. It was a worm. A worm. In my toilet. It came out of the clean water holes. In my toilet. I may never go to the bathroom again.

Even better I am going to have to apologize to the kids. They know darn well I am scared of something crawling up and biting me on the bum. I have found several worms in toilets over the past few months. I blamed the kids. It seemed reasonable, after all they are the ones who carry horrible spiders around the house, and leave little plastic bugs and rats in dark corners to scare me. The last time I found a worm one I told all three boys that if I found another one they were all grounded for week. They all swore up and down it wasn't them. SIGH! I hate when I have to apologize for accusing them of doing something they didn't do.

In a bizarre twist Karey, a good friend of both Monica and I, recently found a squirrel in her toilet. A squirrel. In her toilet. I am laughing just typing that. Squirrels are funnier than snakes and worms. I really hope she jumps on Monica's band wagon and blogs it. Please Karey??

Oh and one more thing. As I read this post out loud to Dave before I hit publish he informed me that it was two worms, not just one. Two worms in my toilet. Count me doubly horrified!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

The BEST Thing About Kindle

I love to read. I am sooo addicted to books. Not really the best thing when you have to pack up every few years and move, and every thing you and and family owns has to weigh less than 7200 pounds. As anyone who has ever been to college can attest, books are heavy. Very heavy. So you would think the best thing about my kindle is that this little electronic gizmo that weighs only fourteen ounces (including cover) has more than two hundred books on it. Two hundred books and only 14 ounces? That is COOL, but it's not the best thing about my kindle.

You might think the best thing about the kindle is the near instant ability to get new books. I will freely admit that it is wonderful to finish a book and be able to click on Amazon (assuming the internet is working) and get the sequel without having to drive to a bookstore (if there is such a thing near you) or waiting weeks for the Amazon box to show up in the mail. Getting books in minutes instead of weeks is is GREAT, but it isn't the best thing.

My husband thinks the best thing about the kindle is his ability to surprise me with new books anytime, even when he isn't home, as long as he has access to Amazon. I LOVE fact that my husband understand and supports my literary addiction. That's one of the reasons I married him, he spoils me rotten. Admit it you are jealous and wish you had found him first, sorry he is mine and I'm not sharing him. Or the kindle. But it's not the best thing about the kindle.

So what is the best thing about my kindle? It is one little feature that is really on Amazon not the kindle itself. If I try to buy a book I have already bought in kindle format, Amazon warns me and reminds me when I bought it. If you don't think that is awesome you have obviously never gone book shopping with kids, quickly grabbed a likely book by a favorite author and realized hours later, half way through chapter one, that it was a book you already owned, just with new cover art. Deja vu in a really sucky way.

When I was cleaning out my bookshelves before we moved out Frankfurt I sorted my books by author and suddenly realized how many duplicate titles were in my library. I had at least a couple dozen titles for which I had two (or more) books. Yes, some books I had three copies of, and I think I had four copies of Dragon Singer by Anne McCaffrey. I blame Dakota for at least a few of those doubles because we have similar taste in Sci Fi/Fantasy books, but most were my mistakes. Do you know how much money a couple dozen books adds up to? I could have spent that money on books I didn't already have. So you see the BEST thing about my kindle is never accidentally buying the same book two (or three) times.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rules of the House

I'm an only child. I am a girl. The rules of the house when I was growing up were a bit different the the rules I find myself making around the boy filled Cyberbones household.

House Rule #9422 If you are not at the beach or a swimming pool you must wear a shirt.

Could someone explain to me why little boys feel the need to run around all flipping day long with their scrawny little plucked chicken chests hanging out? When I was a teenager I thought guys ran around shirtless to impress girls with their manliness. Well I'm telling you I am the only girl in this house and I'm not impressed. Put some clothes on already!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This and That and Where to Next

I picked up the computer hoping to check my e-mail. The internet has been flaking out all weekend. I haven’t been able to get e-mail since Friday (it’s Monday) but at times I can get to Facebook (if I wait 10 minutes for it to load). Earlier today I received a phone call from Dakota who apparently had the good timing to catch the only 20 minute interval in 3 days that would support the Vonage line, but I still can’t access my e-mail. Bah humbug! I also can’t get to Cyberbones so I am typing this in word hoping I can upload it later.

I am hiding in my bedroom with a throbbing headache and backache hoping this isn’t the onset of malaria or the stomach bug that Dave has had since last week. I took tylenol and it isn’t working at all, maybe I will try Motrin next. I decided to take a nice hot bath hoping that it would ease some of the muscle pain. I started the tap running, retrieved my cup of tea, and returned to find the water in the tub was a shade or two darker than than the tea in my cup. Ewww! Dave suggested that I look at it as a mineral bath and climb in anyway. After the initial yuck factor I did take my bath and the hot water did help the backache, a little bit anyway. Moments like this I am ready to pack it up and head out of Africa.

Debating the topic of where to next, next as in where to live after Malawi, has become the newest hobby in the Cyberbones household. Real Post Reports is probably the most visited site on our internet. See a show on TV about Istanbul, head to Real Post Reports and check out Turkey. Get an e-mail from a friend new serving in Dubai and loving it, run look up the UAE. There is no single favored post, instead it is more the post of the day. You can pretty much measure how the day is going by where we want to go next. On a good day we are looking at exotic sounding hardship posts. Does anyone want to come visit us on Mauritius? Has anyone even heard of Mauritius? On a bad day we are looking at any place that is closer to home, has fewer mosquito born illnesses, and more access to Starbucks. Starbucks will be a major bidding consideration this next time. Have I ever mentioned there is NO Starbucks in Malawi? I really need a caramel macchiato people!

Yesterday Dave was in the living room folding clothes and absently staring at the computer screen saver, which is just random pictures from our iphoto files. Several pictures in a row of Germany flipped by and Dave muttered “I could go back there.” Wow, not something I thought I would ever hear him say. I stared at him until he finally shrugged and said “What? It was easy to live there.” Of course today he is all “Let’s go to Italy.” Probably because we celebrated Columbus day by watching Under the Tuscan Sun over coffee this morning while the kids were at school.

Alonzo’s only request is that where ever we go it should have a commissary. Apparently he is having Pop-tart withdrawal issues, and I didn’t include any in our consumables. Bad mommy! The other day we watched a show about Korea. When it was over he looked at me and asked very seriously, “Does Seoul have a military base with a commissary. “Yes” I answered. “OK Let’s got to Seoul.” Hmmm....I may need to look that up, wonder how the schools are? I am with him though, a commissary is sounding darn good to me right now, frozen pizzas, Pop-tarts, squishy white bread, and mac and cheese...yummy!

Colin simply wants to go to Tokyo because that is where his best friend from Germany moved to, failing that he wants to go back to Germany or maybe Jakarta. I think he may be tired of new experiences and is looking for the familiar.

Grayson seems to care the least, probably because he thinks he is Indonesian and can’t remember living in the states anyway. As far as he is concerned we move every few years. That’s just what our family does. Poor confused kiddo.

As for me I just want to go someplace easy. Some place without really loud birds that wake you up before 6 am every flipping morning. Why can’t the wildlife understand I’m NOT a morning person? Someplace where I don’t have to go to every store in town to do my weekly grocery shopping and still come home without some stuff because those items are simply out of stock everywhere. Butter anyone? Some place where a Coca Cola shortage would be ludicrous. Yes, we are having a Coke shortage, and yes I realize that sounds trivial but some days I just want an ice cold Coke! Besides if a country can run out of Coke you can imagine what other things we run out of. So yes DC sounds lovely and so does Frankfurt. But then again so do Taipei, Mexico City, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. All that awesome food just waiting to be eaten.

All this speculation is a bit premature. We don’t get our bid list until sometime next July or August, and even after we submit our bids it will be wait, wait, and wait some more to find out where we are going. Still playing the “what if” game seems to be hard to resist. I think it is part of human nature to want to plan for the future and that can be hard to do when you have no idea of what continent you will be living on in 2 years time.

Nice hot mineral-bath spa treatment anyone?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Homework Woes

*Rant Alert, don't say I didn't warn you.

I hate homework. I mean I really hate it. As a kid I hated it, in fact I often refused to do it. As a teacher I hated assigning homework, I did because district policy required it, but I didn't like it, and refused to count it as anything more than a completion grade. As a parent my relationship with homework has hit a whole new low. Homework is public enemy number one in the Cyberbones household causing daily battles and disrupting the family peace.

As a former student, former teacher, and current parent of school aged kiddos I am familiar with all the reasons for assigning homework. It (supposedly) reinforces the skills covered during the day. It (is supposed to) promote responsibility. It (theoretically) teaches study skills and time management. And it is often one of the only ways that parents know what the kids are learning at school.

Now I don't know about you, but except for when I was a teacher, I simply didn't work on work outside of the work place. Work was for work, home was for family, chores, hobbies, romance, love and laughter, food and fun, but it wasn't for work. I say except as a teacher because the dirty little secret of teaching is that for every assignment you give to your students you have assigned the grading of that work to yourself, as homework, multiplied by the number students you assigned the work to. If you LOVE homework teaching may be the gig for you. If we as adults generally aren't willing to spend our leisure time on work, why do we expect kids to?

Of course I think there is a time and place for homework. I actually don't have huge problems with older kids having regular homework, although I think it is best reserved for special projects and studying for tests. But daily homework in kindergarten or first grade?? Seriously? How is giving a 6 year old homework at all helpful? Is it teaching time management or responsibility when he can't tell time or even read the instructions for himself? If you want me as a parent to know what is being taught try sending newsletters and weekly packets of graded work. That would be a lot more effective and I would have an idea of how he is actually doing in class so the report card wouldn't come as such a surprise.

I know that I should write a conclusion summing up all the points I have made into a nice concise paragraph but as this is a rant I find myself either repeating myself or going off on a tangent. I will instead simply thank you for your attention and go see if the oldest boy is finished with his homework and send him off to bed.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Possibly the Best Present Ever!

Today I received the news that this year Dave is giving me what is possibly the best birthday present EVER! Now usually he tries to sneak around and surprise me but this time I was in on the planning from the minute it was even a possibility. So what is so great? Airplane tickets out of here, and not just any tickets, but tickets to go hang out with some really great women!

Want a hint? I'm heading to Kenya. That's right! I'm going to get a chance to hang out with Alexandra and Naoma! WooHoo! They are beyond awesome for inviting me, and of course Dave is just the best husband for making this possible.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Can't Sit Still

Now that Alonzo is back in school I am back to trying to write everyday. Writing has long been a dream of mine. I read more than anyone I know with the possible exception of my mom, so writing seems a natural extension of that love. I haven't always loved writing. I can remember as a young child making up stories, writing them down, and being so proud. Then around junior high some teacher with an over fondness of red ink convinced me I was a terrible writer. It was only when I was teaching and took some inservices about how to teach writing, that I rediscovered that I actually LIKE writing, quite a lot as a matter of fact. Whether I am any good at it remains to be seen, but I am going to give it a try.

We have taken Dakota's old room and transformed it into an office. It has my favorite rug, a simple writing desk with no drawers for me to clutter up and a comfy, if incredibly ugly, Drexel Horrible arm chair to curl up in when I need to be someplace other than the desk. It even has bookshelves for lots of books and my leather storage ottoman containing a couple of soft blankets for when I curl up in the chair. It is a really nice place to work.

There is only one problem. Well two really, but we will deal with them one at a time. The first problem is I seem to have to suddenly developed ADHD. Is there such a thing as adult onset ADHD? I wonder because I seem categorically unable to sit and focus on one thing for more than a few minutes. I am constantly jumping up to go investigate some noise, to take care of some bit of housework, or get a snack, or get a drink, or get a sweater, or go to the toilet, short I am acting a lot my 5th grader when it is time to do homework. I didn't do this in college, or when I was teaching, so now that I have a chance to follow my dreams why am I sabotaging myself?

Is this sudden onset of inattention due to the brain-draining effects of having four children? It is a common lament among parents, especially those with more than one child, that the childrearing destroys brain cells rendering formerly well educated, erudite women capable of speaking only in Dr. Seuss rhymes and unable to remember anything of importance for more than 30 seconds.

Or am I instead suffering from the multitasking effects of the digital age? I am as guilty as anyone else of having my laptop in my lap most nights as I sit in front of the TV, half watching some show while I surf the net, answer e-mails, and checking in on Facebook. Perhaps I am merely so in the habit of doing twenty things at once, even during my leisure time, that I no longer remember how to sit and focus on one thing. Whatever the issue is I need to get over it, and quickly.

The other problem isn't really a problem, in fact I think it may eventually become part of the solution. You see I went and signed up for a online writing course. Not a college course, it's more of a workshop really - only one month long, taught by a published author, sponsored by one of the regional chapters of Romance Writers of America (RWA). The trouble is last night I received my first official writing assignment and every time I look at it I break out in a cold sweat. The feeling is strangely reminiscent of the speech class I took in college. The thought of actually letting someone else read my writing makes me want to hurl.

And yes, I totally get that I have been writing all sorts of nonsense here on Cyberbones for a number of years now and lots of people have read it. I know they have because they have commented. I even have 61 people who are fond enough of my writing to declare themselves public followers. All of that is irrelevant. I can write here because I'm not asking you tell me if my writing is any good. I'm not asking for you to grade my work, or check my grammar, even though I know at least one person who reads and occasionally comments is a copy editor. Please don't tell me if I am abusing the humble comma. No wait do tell me, I need to know. No, no I don't! Let me live in ignorance. If I ever manage to write something that I think is good enough to pursue publication then I will worry about things like punctuation. Until then I just need to find the confidence to sit down and write every day. Hopefully this class will give me push in the right direction, assuming of course that I manage to sit still long enough to get some thing written and submitted to the instructor.

In the course of writing this one blog post I have folded two loads of laundry, watched a movie (Letters to Juliet - I LOVE Chick Flicks!), answered the phone three times, made a sandwich, braided my hair, and swept the floor. I think I have a problem.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Don't Leave the Door Open!

"Were you raised in a barn?" I can remember Mom asking that whenever I would leave the door open. Ironically we did have a barn, and I spent a great deal of time out in the barn. I probably could have answered rather honestly "Yes" but it wasn't really worth pissing off my mom just for the pleasure of being a smart aleck.

Mom was worried about the flies coming inside. It took my cow wandering into the living room and leaving a cow patty on the rug before I learned to make sure the the door was securely closed. It isn't easy to get cow flop out of the rug. In fact we got rid of the carpet very soon after the cow incident, the smell lingered inspire of my best efforts to clean the mess.

When I fuss at my kids to close the door I'm not worried about flies or even passing livestock. I am more worried about malaria carrying mosquitos, deadly snakes (think mambas and cobras) , and horrifyingly large spiders. Yet in sprite of those very real threats the door is left propped wide open, more often than not, so that any passing critter can just come right in and make itself at home.

Today the dreaded home invasion finally occurred. The boys were off to school, Dave was off to work, and I thought I was alone in the house. As I walked down the hall past the bedrooms I was startled by a sudden noise and a flash of movement. After the intial moment of panic I realized that what I was seeing couldn't possibly be a mamba. I decided to investigate instead of running screaming out the door. What I found was a bird caught inside of Grayson's bedroom. The poor thing was frantically beating at the glass trying to find a way out into the garden.

At first I had no idea what was in Grayson's room.

When it stopped throwing it's self against the window I was able to tell a Heuglin's Robin had made it's way into the house and couldn't figure out how to get back out.

I was able to catch it without hurting it, although I could feel it's heart beating very very fast. The poor thing was terrified.

Once I had it out in the garden it stared at me intently as if to say, "Turn me loose already!"

When I opened my hand it flew away with even looking back. Hopefully it has learned that human houses are no place for birds.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

We in the Cyberbones clan celebrated Labor Day by reinstating evening chores for all three cyberkids. Chores = Labor and it is Labor Day after all. I think it was a perfectly appropriate way to celebrate. The kids are less than pleased with this arrangement. Chores had slowly slipped by the wayside when we had a maid, but now that Mom is the primary maid and housekeeper again the kids are back on KP duty in the kitchen every night. They say I am mean and cruel. I think they will survive and hopefully learn a little something from it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oh Happy Day!

Yesterday was a great day. No, I didn't win the lottery or find a diamond in the backyard. Our second consumables shipment arrived. YAY! Pace picante, mac and cheese, shampoo, toilet paper, canned tunafish, corn chips. All the things that make life good, OK so not ALL the things, but a lot of them for sure. This is what our kitchen looked like at 2 o'clock.

A smallish mountain if boxes. I convinced Dave to take the boys and go to softball without me. By the time they retuned the boxes were gone and our formerly almost empty pantry was restocked and ready to go for the next year. It looks good.

We ordered our consumables from ELSO rather than spend our limited time in the states this summer shopping and dealing with shipping. For the most part it worked great. We didn't order many things that outdate or go stale easily, like chips or cereal. We had heard from others that they often arrived near to expiration date. I am happy to say that nothing was anywhere near to expiration date.

The only problem we had was a few things that were out of stock and so were CANCELLED from our order. Things like hairspray and children's tear free no tangle shampoo. Things that are hard/impossible to find here and if you do you will pay 10+ dollars for a itty bitty bottle. Sigh! Things that can't be shipped from Amazon because we are a pouch post and they are liquid or in the case of hairspray, flammable. HUGE SIGH! Dave is going back though his in-box to see if he missed an message asking if we wanted to make a substitution, because the first thing we heard of it was when we got an e-mail that said "Your order has been shipped here is a copy of your invoice." For the next year I will have to deal with messy hair and children crying because of "burning-eye" shampoo and tangled hair. Just dandy! At least I can drown my sorrows in bottle of picante sauce.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Who says whoooooo?

A few minutes ago the doorbell rang. It was Lyson one of our gardeners. He had this to give to the boys.

In case you can't tell that is a very pissed off baby owl. If you get too close he hisses, growls, and clacks his beak. He hasn't said whooo even once.

I quizzed Lyson to make sure he hadn't raided a nest. He hadn't, Mr. Crow had though. We have a mated pair of pied crows living in a tall tree in our yard. I rather like them, they are great fun to watch and handsome birds to boot. I never realized until we moved here that crows were hunters. I just thought they raided farmers crops. The roof of our house is littered with small bones from their prey. Every once in awhile they will drop something before they get a chance to eat. That's what happened to this little owlet. Somehow the crow ended up dropping him instead of eating him. Closer although very cautious inspection reveals that he probably has a broken leg and who knows what other injuries. We will take him to the wildlife center when David gets home and turn him over to the experts give him a chance of survival.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm Back!

We are back in Malawi, the kids are back in school and I am back blogging. The protests I mentioned in my last post lasted two days and resulted in 18 deaths. Everything has been calm since we have been back and I hope it remains that way. There were scheduled demonstrations last week, the kids school was canceled for two days and many businesses around town shut down. After all of that the demonstrations didn't happen.

It has been a rough transition back to post. We arrived to find that an entire swarm of honey bees had set up house keeping in our bedroom. Thank goodness the gardener noticed the bees coming and going from a vent in our bedroom wall. He managed to get word to the embassy and they sent someone out to spray the morning we arrived back. When we walked in to the master bedroom we found thousands of dead and dying bees and a chunk of honeycomb the size of my hand, just wax, no honey. I was so jet lagged and astounded that it didn't even occur to me to take a picture. To give you an idea of the sheer number of bees it took 3 very full dust pans to remove the bulk of the dead bees and I'm still finding dead bees in strange places. Interestingly the day we arrived at our house for the very first time there was a giant swarm of bees hanging in a tree by the driveway. You know I think Africa is trying to kill me, and and bees are it's weapon of choice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heavy Heart

I picked up the computer this morning to do a quick check in before heading out to the river with some friends. I simply intended to hit facebook, glance at my regular blog reads, and try to get a Wordless Wednesday posted. Instead I find this
and this
and this

News of riots in Lilongwe is unsettling to say the least. I feel like I should say something profound but really I simply hope all our friends back in Lilongwe are safe.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Didn't Happen

Sorry there was no Wordless Wednesday this week. David bought a brand new super fancy camera. In fact it is so fancy that it is a snob and refuses to talk to my beat up ancient MacBook. Hopefully at some point Apple technology will work with new Nikon technology and I will have lots and lots of pictures to post. David says he is sure he can find a work around for the problem, then he will have to teach me how to do it. In the mean time we are super busy enjoying our time at home with family and friends.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Quick Update

I will get back in the swing of blogging soon. Right now we are on vacation, very busy and enjoying every minute of it. In the mean time at least Wordless Wednesday will make it up each week.

The Cyberbones clan finally all made it to the states for R&R. So far the boys and I vacationed at Aunt Teri's house in Kentucky for two lovely weeks, while Dave remained behind in Malawi hard at work. The kids had lots of cousins to play with and fun was had by all.

Last weekend we all arrived in Texas with me driving in from Kentucky to Texas, special thanks to my nephew who reminded me which side of the road to drive on, and ran interference when the kids stared fighting. Alonzo drove in a day later with his cousin Jennifer and her son. Meanwhile David flew in from Malawi, and Dakota flew in from South Carolina. It was wonderful to have all my babies together again, even if my oldest baby is taller than me these days. This week has been crazy busy reuniting with friends and catching up with family.

Today Dakota had to return to South Carolina, apparently the Navy wants him back, go figure. Tomorrow the 3 younger boys will start zoo camp. They are really excited. I'm excited too, shopping without kids! Yay! Lunch at a restaurant, without kids. Heaven!

I sort of feel sorry for the camp counselors. Picture this:

"Kids this is a kudu"

"We saw those in Zambia and ate kudu steaks in Botswana. Mmmmm.....Kudu...yummy!"

"Ummmmm.....Yeah.....Moving on. This is a baboon spider from Africa"

"My mom hates those, she screams when I let them loose in the kitchen."

"Okaaaaay. Let's move on to Southeast Asia. This is a gibbon."

"My brother saw those when he went white water rafting in Sumatra."

So how long before I get a call about my kids making up stories? I'm betting sometime in the first day. And Lord help the counselor that tries to talk birds with Colin. I quit trying to look birds up in the book several months back. I just ask Colin, it's a lot quicker, he has them all memorized.

Well I gotta go do some laundry, this is the first time all week we made it home before dark, and if I don't get it done the kids may be going to camp naked.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fabric Shopping - Area 2

Dave here - Today I went to “Area 2” to do some fabric shopping. I didn’t think to take my camera out while I was at the fabric store, but I did get some pictures around the area. After I got home, I took some pictures of the fabric I bought for Shannon. I think she will like what I got. I can’t wait to take Shannon there so she can see all the fabric herself.

Enjoy the Pictures